Blacksburg advanced their season by defeating Western Albemarle in the Region SemiFinal. After trailing in possession in most of the first half, Eden Elizabeth Phillips changed the course of the match by finishing a corner kick by Sophia Thompson in the 30th minute. In the 31st minute Blacksburg’s Ali Palmer quickly extended the lead on another corner kick served by Sophia Thompson. In the 56th minute Catie Walters locked up the win finish a great cross field shot on a pass from Tori Shimozono.
- Chris Martin recorded 8 saves and Sarah Sallee recorded 1 save while the WA goal keeper made 1 save. Blacksburg had 10 shots compared to WA’s 11 shots. Blacksburg had 6 corner kicks to 3 for WA.
Quoted from the Roanoke Times.
Blacksburg girls clinch spot in 3A state soccer semifinals, Christian Moody
Special Thanks to The Roanoke Times
LYNCHBURG — Time of possession might be an over-rated statistic. Blacksburg’s girls soccer team allowed Western Albemarle a significant edge in possession. No matter. The Bruins were far better using their chances. Scoring two goals on two perfect corners in a two minute span of the first half, the Bruins knocked off Western Albemarle 3-0 to advance to the Group 3A West regional final Friday. The Bruins (17-0-2) will face Broadway, a 1-0 winner over Cave Spring in the other 3A West semifinal.
The Warriors were the aggressive team from the kickoff, pushing the ball into the Blacksburg end relentlessly. In the 15th minute Western Albemarle had a free kick from 20 yards, but Bruins keeper Chris Martin was in the right place and caught the ball just below the crossbar. Despite keeping the ball in front of Martin much of the game, the Warriors never had a better chance to score. The Bruins backline bent but never broke. Bruins coach Travis Eschenmann has complete confidence in his defense. “I felt like they were outplaying us in the first half,” Eschenmann said. “Goal keeping is a huge difference maker and Chris did a phenomenal job, and she always does. Plus, we have a great defense in front of her, too.” Martin said Western Albemarle (18-4) is a great team that likes a finesse game, while the Bruins prefer working off set pieces. “They have the pretty dynamics, pretty passing,” Martin said. “We like to just get down to it. We’ve talked so much about set plays.” When the Bruins finally got a chance to push the ball into the forward third, they earned a corner kick. In the 29th minute Sophia Thompson sent a perfect cross from the corner to a spot five yards in front of the back post where Eden-Elizabeth Phillips headed it into the goal. Two minutes later, Thompson did the same thing and this time Ali Palmer got a head on it. The ball ricocheted between the cross bar and Warriors keeper Morgan Broadus, then into the goal. For a team that has given up only two goals all season — both on penalty kicks — two goals is basically an insurmountable lead.
Phillips said corner kicks are an emphasis for Blacksburg. “Sophia Thompson has been feeding those all season long. We practice over and over and we know what to do. When it’s execution time we take advantage,” Phillips said. “We know that in games like this it comes down to who can execute in the box.” Phillips is part of the rubber band defense, playing center back, but she comes forward to attack corner kicks. “Half the time I’m heading the ball out of the box and the other half I’m trying to score,” she said. Eschenmann said set pieces are where the Bruins believe they can separate themselves. “Set plays are so critical. It’s something we do to set ourselves above other teams because everybody’s great at this level,” he said. Warriors coach Jacob Desch said his team did everything they wanted to except score. “We knew we’d have possession and we needed to make opportunities. We did that, but we just couldn’t beat their goalie. She made some great saves,” Desch said.
Protecting the two-goal lead, the Bruins added a dagger of a score win the 57th minute when Catie Walters took a feed from Tori Shimozono up the left side, juked a defender and drove home the third and final Bruins goal. Blacksburg’s win pushes their unbeaten streak to 62 games. Broadway will seek to blemish that record. The Gobblers earned a trip to the state tournament and a berth in the regional final by knocking off Cave Spring (11-7-2) in the first game of the evening. The Knights were aggressive throughout, missing four scoring chances in the first 20 minutes. Cave Spring outshot Broadway 10-5 in the game, but nothing got past Gobblers keeper Abby Jessup. Knights coach Whitney Huffman said sometimes the ball bounces the wrong way. “We got unlucky. We had quite a few opportunities but couldn’t finish,” Huffman said. “In the first half we really had ‘em. We just got really unlucky quite a few times.” First-year Broadway coach Bobby Mongold said withstanding the early attack helped the Gobblers (17-2-2) later in the game. “We played fantastic in the back, especially early in the first half,” Mongold said. “They really brought a strong attack. I thought it helped us calm down when we held them in the first 20 minutes.” Sheila Oswald collected the ball after a bad clearing attempt and sent a rocket into the net from 25 yards for the only score of the game.